2016 Mazda CX-3 Driving Impressions

Mazda vehicles are known for graceful handling and a sportier-than-usual driving experience, and the CX-3 is certainly no exception. Simply put, it’s great fun to drive. On twisty back roads, this subcompact zooms around sufficiently for enjoyable spirited driving.

Roadgoing qualities of the CX-3 are among the best in this emerging segment, helped by nicely-weighted electric power steering. Caster angles in the steering setup have been increased, for better stability on straightaways, without impairing this mini-size crossover’s easy maneuverability in any way. Whether it has front-drive or all-wheel drive, the turning circle is tight.

Comfort doesn’t suffer, whether in urban driving or on the open road; for short treks, as well as long journeys. The CX-3’s suspension absorbs most bumps and holes without annoying any occupants.

Even when the pavement gets rougher, the CX-3 is impressively quiet. Road noise is minimal, especially with the 16-inch alloy wheels on the base Sport edition. Steering feel is a bit tauter with the 18-inch low-profile tires on upper trim levels, but expect mild road noise. The ride stiffens a little with the bigger tires, but not enough to be troublesome.

The engine is barely audible even at 70 mph on the expressway, breezing along at 2,300 rpm or so. In town, a bit of growliness might appear when accelerating. Otherwise, during normal driving, it’s smooth and quiet, though pushing the pedal harder does raise the engine-noise level.

Acceleration is surprisingly brisk and peppy, in view of the engine’s modest output. Light weight doubtless contributes to both the energetic acceleration and the thrifty gas mileage.

If equipped with all-wheel drive, that system can actually predict the need for additional torque at back wheels. Even at a standstill, it can supposedly predict whether AWD will be needed when starting off.

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